Q: I am a stay-at-home dad and I find it really hard to socialize myself and my 3-year-old son because most of the children around my son’s age are with stay-at-home moms. What are some activities we can do that will help alleviate this?
Hooray for you for being a stay-at-home dad! I so admire families who make this coming-of-age family system work. And why not?
I am not just saying this just because my son-in-law is a stay-at-home dad and he does an amazing job. There are many moms who are more content and therefore, do better not staying home with the kids.
Many dads find a calling with the kids at home. And some just have no choice! But there are no rules about who does or doesn’t stay home. One way does not yield a better batch of cookies!
In my family, the icing on the cake (or cookies) is how fabulous his two kids, my grandkids, are.
Daddy Michael enrolled himself and Daisy in her first Parent and Me Music Class when she was only months old. He was THE only dad in the class, and all the women seemed to know one another or click right away.
On top of that, being a first-time dad, his comfort level was still a bit rocky. But being a secure person and a confident, independent man, he plowed through class after class of the same—he was the only dad.
At the park and along the way, Michael met a few stay-at-home dads. He made a few connections, but nothing really stuck. That didn’t stop him.
Here’s what was interesting: When Daisy started regular preschool, his difference by virtue of not being the mom just faded away. It was Michael who made friends with the other moms; Michael paved the adult social connection for him their family; Michael became the familiar parent.
He was up on all the school news (gossip!), learned about the best clothes sales and became just another of the class parents. Oh, and did I mention how much the teachers loved him?
Now that Daisy is in kindergarten, Michael is da man! He is the class volunteer extraordinaire; he is loved by all the moms; he makes playdates, goes to PTA meetings. Being a stay-at-home dad just makes him special.
At three years old, all your son has only ever known is “Daddy stays home to take care of me.” That is his normal. Nothing is different or awkward to him. That’s just the way it is.
How, when and with whom your son socializes has most to do with his exposure to his little friends. That you are his dad, as opposed to his mom, doesn’t influence his ability, desire or innate drive to socialize.
It can, however, limit his exposure to other kids and, therefore, limit his development and practice of his social skills. Becoming a social person has everything to do with development and experience.
Your issue seems to be about you, Dad. I don’t think it is about the exact types of activities in which you are participating.
I know nothing about your innate temperament or your social personality, but I am guessing you are not an extrovert. People who are have an easier time talking to anyone, be it mom or dad.
Children are the language that all parents have in common. Parents who are perfect strangers can talk about sleep training, whining or picky eating. It doesn’t matter your gender or the activity. You speak “child.”
Perhaps you need to do a better job of simply putting you and your son out there—all the parks around town, the open kids’ gymnasiums, drop-in music classes and concerts (like the ones at Kidville).
Remember you are modeling for your son how we interact with people and how to be social. You model how to be friendly, how to shake hands, how to meet and greet.
So, I suggest you take a breath and jump in.